REPORT: How China abducts Uyghur cultural heritage at UNESCO



By Ayguzel

On February 9, the Uyghur Human Rights Project published a report titled ‘The Complicity of Heritage: Cultural Heritage and Genocide in the Uyghur Region’ co-authored by Professor Rachel Harris and Professor Aziz Isa Elkun.

The report points out that the Chinese government has successfully applied to the United Nations Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) to recognize the status of the cultural heritage of the Chinese nation for five sites, such as Muqam, Tiriantag, and Kariz. Therefore, UNESCO officially recognizes the cultural heritage of Uyghurs, Kazakhs, Kyrgyz, and other local ethnic groups as the cultural property of the Chinese state. Despite its national responsibility for protection and development, Beijing is sabotaging these projects instead of protecting and developing them and using them only for political propaganda to deceive the world.

In this context, UNESCO continues to officially recognize China as the protector of the heritage of the Uyghur, Kazakh, and Kyrgyz ethnic groups in the Uyghur region, including several items on its Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity, Intangible Culture in Urgent Need of Protection Inscriptions Emergency Conservation, World Heritage Lists and Tentative Lists.

This report examines the status of five internationally recognized items on those lists: Uyghur Muqam, Manas, Mas Repu, Tengritag (Tianshan), and Karez areas. Through these five case studies, Heritage Collusion demonstrates that Beijing and its partners control the cultural heritage in the Uyghur region. Heritage is exploited for financial gain and used to promote government-chosen versions of history and culture, regardless of established historical facts and the rights of communities and culture bearers recognized in the UNESCO Convention.

This report suggests measures to protect Uyghur cultural heritage by proving the crimes committed by the Chinese government and following the standards and relevant regulations of international organizations such as the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). The government has expressed concern about the ongoing cultural vandalism and has asked the Uyghurs to send an investigative team to assess the situation. The report recommends UNESCO stop Chinese state vandalism and revoke the Chinese ownership and privileges of Uyghur cultural heritage.

The dispossession and destruction of cultural heritage are often inseparable from, or a precursor to, genocide. This report is critical for the international community to understand and recognize the genocide. The Chinese government’s erasure of Uyghur cultural practices and rewriting of Uyghur history is well-documented.